An evolutionary psychology study that gained much media attention in May 2017 claims to show women’s sexual attraction to other women is the outcome of evolution, specifically for the pleasure of heterosexual men. The study was reported widely as ‘homosexual women evolved for men’s pleasure.’ Journalists have not read the study nor linked to it. The study is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. The study is led by Associate Professor Menelaos Apostolou. The team is based at the University of Nicosia, with apparently only one woman co-author.
Here, I show why the study is flawed and why the conclusions are premised on dangerous heterosexism. Heterosexism is the prejudiced belief that heterosexuality is ‘natural’ and ‘normal,’ and that heterosexuality uniformly structures all aspects of social life. Heterosexism also presumes that gender is a binary (there are only two groups, men or women), and excludes the lived experiences of transgender people. Heterosexism brings to light the social construction of sexuality, and in this case, the values and social dynamics that impact on what is taken-for-granted about heterosexuality.
I focus my discussion on cisgender heterosexual and homosexual people as the authors of the study have presumed men and women can either be homosexual or heterosexual, to the exclusion of other gender and sexual identities. They have done this without explicitly saying so (it is a facet of heterosexism to reinforce binaries, because variations of sexuality disrupt the idea that heterosexuality is natural and normal). Experiences for transgender lesbians would vary, however, the authors presume a gender binary in thinking about lesbian desire.
With these cautions in mind, let’s dive into the study.
Continue reading Heterosexism in a Scientific Study of Lesbian Attraction
Let’s look at two examples of heterosexism in everyday life. Heterosexism is the presumption that being heterosexual is natural and normal. Women are also presumed to be passive in their sexuality, while men are active. Hetetosexism is an exclusionary and dangerous way to view the world, by erasing, questioning or punishing LGBTQIA people, and by normalising men’s dominance over other groups.
Continue reading Heterosexism in Everyday Life
Playing at the Sydney Latin American Film Festival, The Companion is a Cuban film centred on Horacio, a Black Cubano who is a former boxing champion now disgraced. Played by Yotuel Romero, Horacio is assigned to work at a military-run hospital (”Los Cocos”) where all Cubans who were HIV positive were quarantined in the 1980s under the guise of universal healthcare. Continue reading The Companion: Film Review
Here is an interesting sociological study but one that highlights an important gap in sociological methods and thinking. This article is based on student research in the USA (originally published for a mass, non sociological audience) but it replicates a common problem with research our discipline produces. The ethonographic study uses non-participant observation within a four-star restaurant, which involved the researcher watching both opposite-gender and same-gender pairs eating, and taking field notes of the researcher’s observations. The study finds that “women” change their eating behaviour when eating with “men,” by taking smaller, less frequent bites, in comparison with when they eat with other “women.” This extends to the way in which “women” use napkins. All very interesting and worth reading.
But what the researcher leaves unsaid regards axes of socioeconomics that apparently do not matter to White, middle-class heterosexual audiences. We are not told how many people in the small sample size represent race, class and sexuality dynamics, let alone other markers of Otherness. The author generalises behaviour observed at a four-star restaurant to say something universal about gender, without considering that other cultures control eating (and gender, and race and sexuality) in divergent ways.
Continue reading Whiteness Within Sociology “Gender” Studies
Since the 1990s Australian law has recognised sexual persecution as grounds for refugee asylum. Still, applicants are forced to go through a protracted process of proving their “gayness.” This excellent video features University of Sydney researcher and activist Senthorun Raj telling the story of Ravi, a Bangladeshi asylum seeker, who was forced not just to establish his sexuality, but to defend his commitment to his queerness. Ravi’s problem was that he was not “visibly” gay in the way the law expected. Yet refuge law on persecution is not simply about looks or physical persecution. Continue reading Gay Enough: Human Rights of Gay Refugees